SKOWHEGAN — The planned Maine Veterans Museum at Skowhegan Village Plaza won’t be open officially until next spring, but a 68-foot-long, 14-foot-high patriotic mural painted atop the front entrance of one of the former stores there will be done for public viewing in time for Veterans Day.

The red, white and blue mural by artist Janine Folsom, of Skowhegan, depicting an eagle emerging from an American flag is painted directly onto the brick surface of the building, which previously housed Chapter 11 and Job Lots discount stores.

Folsom, a former stay-at-home mother of two turned school bus driver and artist, was the 2012 winner of the Maine Duck Stamp contest for her oil painting of a pair of ringneck ducks for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

Folsom, 46, said she and plaza owner Dana Cassidy got together and decided on a design, and she set to work almost two weeks ago using exterior latex acrylic paint, artist brushes and ordinary household painting brushes.

“This is the biggest project I’ve ever done,” she said, “but it’s been extremely fun. I drew up something for him and he liked it and said, ‘Well, go ahead.'”

Folsom said the eagle and the flag will be completed by Veterans Day, Nov. 11, but the name of the museum and other details will be added to the mural later.

Dana Cassidy, a 65-year-old real estate developer from Presque Isle, bought the plaza last summer with the idea of refurbishing the existing storefronts and attracting new tenants to the plaza. Cassidy already has paved the parking lot and installed a new LED lighting system in the museum building, a fire suppression sprinkler system, new front doors and a rear entrance to move in more than a dozen antique cars and military vehicles for the museum.

Walls inside the 15,300-square-foot building have been painted in broad bands of red, white and blue stretching 15 feet to the newly installed ceiling.

“We’ve totally refurbished the floor and next week we’re going to put five coats of wax on it after the doors are in, and then I’ll start bringing the vehicles in,” Cassidy said Thursday at the future museum site. “Depending on the weather, the mural should be done, hopefully, by the end of next week.”

Cassidy said he served during the Vietnam era with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, then spent eight years with the Maine Army National Guard; and he is passionate about veterans’ issues.

Cassidy has two firetrucks, including one he bought for $20,000 from the town of Skowhegan; an ambulance; a “deuce-and-a-half” 2.5-ton military transport truck; and 16 antique collector vehicles. He also has an eye on a military tank on display at an antiques auction house on U.S. Route 201 in Fairfield.

“I want all veterans to be thanked by the citizens of Maine and anyone else — whoever comes in here — I want them to say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ That is my sole priority in doing this job,” he said. “That’s why I’m doing this, no other reason.”

Part of Cassidy’s plan is to include local law enforcement and emergency personnel in demonstrations at the museum for schoolchildren to get to know police officers, firefighters and game wardens and see firsthand what they do on the job every day.

Jeffrey Hewett, Skowhegan’s director of economic and community development, said the museum will be ready for vehicles by Veterans Day, but the museum will not be open then. Many of the vehicles will be stored in the building for the winter.

“I think he’s made amazing progress,” Hewett said. “He not just redeveloping this site just to standards; he’s actually taking it way above that. He’s bringing energy costs down with LED lighting, new heating, It’s above and beyond.”

Hewett said having someone like Cassidy invested in a project such as the Village Plaza helps the entire community.

Of the Skowhegan Village Plaza’s 80,000 square feet of space, Cassidy said 19,000 square feet is occupied. The rest, he said, is dormant. He said he has two potential new businesses interested in moving into the plaza — a light manufacturing business and office and administrative space.

The plaza, built on farmland in 1965, is home to Pizza Hut and Burger King with land leases at the either end of the plaza and 12 stores in between, including Napa Auto Parts, a Subway sandwich shop, a beauty salon, a pet shop, a health food store and the vacant former Radio Shack store.

Land for the plaza was sold in 1965 by dairy farmer Ralph Dunlop. The shopping center, the first of its kind for Skowhegan, once contained a JC Penney store, an Ames department store, a state liquor store and a large LaVerdiere’s Super Drug Store.

The former Movie Gallery rental store, which closed several years ago, remains vacant for now, as does the former Mr. Paperback bookstore.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow